Angels and Accordions written by Ed Gawlinski

Angels and Accordions

Written by: Ed Gawlinski
Also Published by: United States National Accordion News Our thanks to US National Accordion News for the cemetery photographs and background information.
Date written: October 2006

Angels and Accordions is a site-specific performance/walking tour of Green-Wood Cemetery produced by Dance Theatre Etcetera and the Green-Wood Historic Fund in conjunction with openhousenewyork 2005. In this show, a cast of 30 angels, 10 accordions and a classical music ensemble guided visitors through Brooklyn's historic Green-Wood Cemetery. ANGELS AND ACCORDIONS was made possible with support from the Green-Wood Historic Fund, the Puffin Foundation and the Brooklyn Tourism and Visitors Center. The music by Todd Reynolds and Bob Goldberg for ANGELS AND ACCORDIONS was commissioned by the American Music Center's Live Music for Dance Program. Further assistance was provide by openhousenewyork and BAX/Brooklyn.

Ed Gawlinski has offered his perspective, as he happened upon this exciting performance when visiting his father's grave at the Green-Wood Cemetery. The following is his account of the event:

On Saturday, October 7th, I was in Brooklyn, NY visiting my mother. I first stopped at Greenwood Cemetery to visit my father's grave site and found out that there was an event scheduled that day called "Angels and Accordions." Prior to the Civil War, Greenwood Cemetery was the number one tourist attraction in the United States. Last week it was designated a "National Historic Landmark" by the Department of Interior.

Angels and Accordions was a performance event with actors and dancers from "Dance Theater Etcetera" directed and choreographed by Martha Bowers and Robert Martin. They were accompanied by about a dozen accordions featuring original music composed by Guy Klucevsek and Bob Goldberg.

The musicians were all dressed in black and the dancers were all dressed in white. The audience was led around the cemetery by a guide carrying a black and white umbrella and a single accordion player. We started at the main gate, which for anyone who has never seen Greenwood Cemetery is, in itself one of Brooklyn's architectural gems.

Before starting out Guy Klucevsek (picture left) played one of his original pieces to which the dancers (by my count there were about thirty of them) performed. The dancers went off to their stations around the cemetery and the audience was then led by their guide and musician. We went left from the gate, which brought us past the area where my father is buried.

Guy Klucevsek is an obviously serious and very accomplished accordionist with a beautiful instrument by Titano. Like all instruments, there are accordions and there are very special accordions. The quality of the reeds and soundboard can make a difference. This was an impressive instrument with a wonderfully powerful and pure sound. Usually we think of the accordion as playing happy music, polkas, tarantella, ziedeco, etc. It also can have a darker side which Guy Klucevsek's compositions brought out.

The first station was at a place where the monument, an angel was being repaired (see picture below). The dancer stood on the pedestal in the pose the angel had been in, while an accordionist played at its base. The way this was set up, you approached each station in the middle of the performance, the musician leading us stopped playing when the music at the next station could first be heard.

As you approached the music became louder. Some stations were close enough to each other that at the point one accordion was too faint to hear, the next became just audible. At some stations a dance was being performed at others, the performers were standing motionless, at others there was singing.

One very interesting station was at the Catacombs. This was one of the original pieces. There were two accordions playing at the end of the catacombs and a slide show playing on the wall above them. The audience had to walk along the long narrow corridor approaching them. There were dancers in some of the side chambers holding a candle and bell, periodically, one would call out a name and strike the bell.

A third accordion played and walked slowly down the corridor. The acoustical quality of the setting and changing position of the three instruments in relations to each other made this a very interesting sound.

The music at each station was by an accordion. The musicians varied in skill and instrument quality. Most musicians were playing full sized (120 bass) accordions but there were also a few smaller instruments (I believe 48 bass). At some of the stations, familiar tunes were played, such as "The Last Rose of Summer." At one station, there was an accordion accompanying a woman playing "Over the Rainbow" on a saw.

The final station was at the Steinway tomb. Steinway Pianos had their home office in Queens, and the family grave site in Brooklyn. Their mausoleum is the largest in Greenwood Cemetery. Naturally Guy Klucevsek (picture left) was playing here and it was a pleasure listening to his original pieces.

The finale was on the hill overlooking the memorial chapel. The hill was east of the audience and the sun was near setting, so the lighting was about as dramatic as could possibly be arranged. The finale included all of the dancers and all of the musicians who played full sized instruments.

This may have been the most unique performance I've ever had the pleasure of attending. As sometime this month (or perhaps last month) is the fiftieth anniversary of my first accordion lesson, it was very propitious that I happened to be able to attend it.

Ed Gawlinski
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